Building of the Day: 1025 Flatbush Avenue

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Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Loew’s King Theater
Address: 1025 Flatbush Avenue, between Linden Blvd and East 22nd St.
Neighborhood: Flatbush
Year Built: 1929
Architectural Style: French Baroque
Architects: Rapp and Rapp
Other buildings by architect: Paramount Theater in Times Square, Palace Theater-Chicago, Loew’s Jersey Theater-Jersey City.
Landmarked: No, but should be.

The story: Most readers are familiar with the efforts to save this iconic Brooklyn theater. It is one of the great movie palaces built in the late 1920′s, when theaters for the common man were made to impress, and were often more interesting and splendiferous themselves, than what was going on below on the stage or screen. It opened in September of 1929, the 3,676 capacity theatre enjoying a live stage show with orchestra and pipe organ, and the film Evangeline, starring Dolores Del Rio, who made a live appearance. It is interesting, in these old theaters, to see the transition from live vaudeville and theater to cinema. Ideally, seating and stage arrangements are quite different for the two, but many houses simply put screens up on the theatrical stage, and went on. This theater was primarily designed for movies, with excellent sight lines, a large floor seating area, and a smaller mezzanine. The architects, Cornelius and George Rapp, were brothers based in Chicago, but they designed scores of movie palaces across the country. They designed the Loew’s King in a lavish French Baroque style, where more was never enough. The ornate lobby was superseded only by the theater itself, with every gilded festoon imaginable, in terra cotta, plaster and sumptuous fabrics and trim. For Brooklynites suffering from the Great Depression, sparing a few cents to see a movie in such splendor must have been a treat. Over the years, a few local people who worked there, Barbra Striesand, Sylvester Stallone, Henry Winkler, and Ben Vereen, have become legends themselves. The last show played in 1977, and the city got the theatre for non-payment of taxes in 1979, and has been trying to unload it, or do something with it ever since. The huge and ornate interior is now in need of major overhaul. Fortunately, there are now plans to turn the theater into a performance space again, thanks to the ACE Theatrical Group of Houston. They plan to reintroduce the Loew’s King back to the public in 2014. I have never seen the interior in person, only photographs, so I look forward to that. In the meantime, the terra-cotta exterior has never been more visible, since the Loew’s sign has been removed. Now, in its rather grimy splendor, we can see the craftsmanship in the design of the façade, with masks, Medusas, musical instruments, flora and fauna. All styled in a wonderful Baroque manner, reminiscent of Mediterranean villas and pleasure gardens. All on Flatbush Avenue, in the heart of Brooklyn.

0 Comment

  • WOW. This takes the cake.

  • I really really really hope this place gets fixed up and put back into use. Such a shame to see it rotting away.

  • lol!! it’s the Skidmark Building!

    *rob*

  • My former neighbor grew up in Carroll Gardens in the 30s and 40s in a floor-through apartment in one of those formerly one-family Italianate brownstones. He and his five or six siblings shared the middle room (boys and girls in the same room in bunk beds); his parents slept in the big front room.

    Once a week the parents would give them all $1 or whatever it was, and send them all to the matinee for the afternoon. Years and years later, he figured out why….

  • benson

    In the mid-70′s, this theater and BAM (which was also down on its heels at that time) served as the venue for many graduation ceremonies. It was a way to boost revenue. Alas, kept BAM afloat, but not this theater.

  • the ACE Group is for real. They have restored amazing theaters in many cities including Boston and DC. They are not an underfunded or inexperienced developer so this could happen. Let’s hope. I have a feeling they really want to do something in NYC to add to their portfolio.

  • how tall is this building, it looks super looming in a good way

    *rob*

  • Gorgeous building! Minard- that’s wonderful to hear. I hope they resoter the interior too.

  • Great building. I went on dates there in high school and my high school graduation was held there in 1967. There were lots of big movie theaters then. The Kingsway on Kings Highway and Coney Island Ave comes to mind. Now you can’t even tell it was ever a theater.

  • Rob, in the second photos you can see one story buildings next door, so the actual theater is probably 4 standard stories, but the facade adds another story. It really doesn’t look that tall in reality. Erasmus HS, which is down a couple of blocks, is taller. The buildings around it are all single story, so it looks taller than it really is.

  • This theater is not located on Flatbush between Linden and East 22nd. It’s on Flatbush between Tilden and I think Beverley Road. The Sears parking lot which is on Bedford between Tilden and Beverly is right behind it. Once restored, perhaps the owners could make a deal with Sears to use their lot for parking on event nights. Of course, the Q/B line at Beverley Road station in Ditmas Park is only five short blocks away.

  • Your cross streets are WAY off.

  • Lovely theater – I’ve worked on others like this one, and they are all over the top in whatever style or inspiration they chose. They really were palaces.

    One question – I always the name was Lowes Kings theater (plural, as in the county).

  • Ditto EastFlatEasy–cross streets are all wrong. No such intersections. Love your posts, though, Montrose!

  • I guess Google maps is wrong. Why don’t you tell me what the cross streets are then, please.

  • ACE Group does excellent work however we as taxpayers are paying for the restoration and then essentially giving away ownership of the theater to ACE.

    The restoration is a wonderful thing; the deal negotiated by the EDC is essentially a corporate giveaway. Instead of paying ACE Theatrical to renovate the theater and keeping ownership for the community, the city is giving $50 million plus another $15 million in tax rebates to renovate it. Ace is paying $5 million and will keep ownership. It’s a bad deal, unfortunately.

  • Corporate welfare of course! I recently read that NYS gave away 15 billion in tax breaks and other incentives to woo some company to open upstate. They did open and hire 1500 people. One billion per job but the local politicians get to say that they brought 1500 jobs to the area.

  • You may well be right seth, but if that gets the theater renovated, instead of rotting, it sounds like an acceptable trade-off. No one does something of this magnitude for nothing.

  • Can’t see how investing $65 million into a theater and then giving it away for $5 million is an acceptable trade-off.

  • Correct cross streets are Tilden and Duryea Place. Not sure how true it is but it has been said that A Tribe Called Quest shot their video for Hot Sex On A Platter off of the Boomerang Sound track in this theater in the early 90′s.